Cupertino, We Have A Problem

Fiction writer and instructor, Edan Lepucki, stopped using Twitter and Facebook at the beginning of 2010 so she could concentrate on her writing, and on being present.


I admire her move and according to her article in The Millions, so do her real life friends.

The single most fascinating aspect of my detox was the number of people who wanted to talk to me about it. Almost everyone I spoke to said, “I wish I could do that!” Then they got this strained look in their eyes that meant, The internet is ruining my life! When I assured them a detox was easy to do, they weren’t convinced. Or they said, “Okay, yes, next month. I’ll try it.” And then they wouldn’t. It saddened me to see all these people, chained to their online lives, posting flattering photos of themselves, “liking” a funny status update, posting or retweeting a link. It’s a never-ending race to remind others that we’re here, that we exist. It reminds me of when I used to do dance routines and little plays for my mom. “Look!” I’d yell every few seconds. “You’re NOT watching! Look!” It gets exhausting. And it’s not really living.

Naturally, social media, like all things addictive, can be used sparingly. But that’s not how we do it, is it? The whole point is to be drunk on it.

One of the big questions that we need to ask ourselves is what are we gaining from this always-on participation? Are we making new friends? Are we building businesses? There’s no easy answers to these non-rhetorical questions, but there are lots of people searching for balance, myself included.

The other night I had a dream that consisted of Tweets and @replies and while it wasn’t scary, in hindsight it was something of a nightmare. My investment in feeding the machine (and being fed by it) is creeping into my subconscious and I’m not okay with that. Of course, the real problem isn’t in my sleep, it’s how much of my day I give to this medium. I’ve written over 6600 posts on this site alone, and for what? Does it help me land clients? No. Does it bring in ad revenue. Very little. Does it help me grow my network and make friends? For sure, but I can make just as many friends without it.

So what’s preventing me from walking away from the screen, even for just a few days, weeks or months? I think Lepucki nails it when she says it’s a way to announce ourselves, to say “look at me, I exist.” Yet, I know I exist and my real life friends and family know I exist. I don’t need a digital network of non-paying readers to remind me of that. And when I consider that I might be acting like a child in need of attention, I’m rightly bothered by that.

Every day digital culture grows more pervasive, but thankfully some smart people like Andrew Keen, Jaron Lanier and Nicholas Carr are beginning to push back, and question where this road is leading. Where do you think it’s leading?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.